Freelancers Union founder Sara Horowitz is disrupting traditional healthcare once again this week, and it will come as good news to many self-employed or gig-based workers seeking medical treatment.
The Freelancers Union was founded, in part, to make sure freelance workers had options for healthcare. In 2001, it began selling group-rate health coverage to its members, and a few years later, it launched its own insurance company that would sell coverage to contracted workers.
Earlier this month, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit unveiled an ambitious five-year plan to extend its healthcare coverage for freelancers across the country.
The first step is providing medical care directly to Union members across the country. The 25,000 members currently covered by Freelancers Insurance Co. will be rolled into Empire BlueCross BlueShield plans, to free the Union up to open 15 primary care clinics across the country.
The insurance plans are set to change this year, and the clinics should open over the next five years. Two clinics are already open in New York that allow freelancers to receive primary care and other services without co-pays.
The measures should help freelancers burdened with high healthcare costs. The average visit to the emergency department costs about $1,500, and urgent care center treatment usually costs under $150, but can be even cheaper with insurance coverage.
Approximately 60% of The Freelancers Union’s 250,000 members reside in New York, but the group estimates that there are over 53 million freelancers across the U.S. that may not be covered. The expansion should help freelancers outside of New York get the care they need.
Even non-freelancers can benefit from the new clinics. Hypothetically, they’re open to anyone willing to buy affiliated insurance plans, since the Freelancers Union no longer has to negotiate group rates under the Affordable Care Act. Anyone who wants to buy freelancer insurance can do so and take advantage of their clinics.
A bronze-level plan in New York costs about $393 a month, and new plans may be rolled out in the future.